Slow

Slogans are nice, aren’t they?
The way they give you a surface
Level high five. Yeah.
A habitual masquerade
Small shrug of the shoulders
As you clutch a dead animal.

They can appear in places you’d
Least expect them to.
Live the high life by grinding
Your mantra into white lines
Mashing the familiar into one
Blurry muddle as you live each day
Like there’s always tomorrow.

Never obfuscate.
The simplest things are all
We have when a crestfallen
Parent learns to live without
The hope offered by a branded shoe
It has to stop.
Pleasantries.
Are.
Not.
Nice.

I’ve learnt two speak in two voices at once
My high voice regulates the surface
Core temperature, weather gossip
Funny stuff, casual sexism
Failing to grasp the implications
Of abstract political thought

My low voice curses and mutters
Screams at plaques, advertising banners
That offer mortifyingly simple reasons
To not observe the grey matter
But have no fear
The next black and white cat
Is bound to bring luck
Perhaps its cash prize will make
Obedient domiciles of us all

 

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Slow

Rebel

My Dad pushed open the door to my room, ready to shout at a disobedient child but I hid myself well. Underneath the bed were built-in drawers I’d shut from the inside, I’d spend forty minutes, or more, eluding detection. Silent, but for gentle breaths and a pulsing heartbeat. The thud of the front door and a distant engine rumble was my cue to move, first to nervously peer out of my parents bedroom window onto the empty driveway, and then to head downstairs and out into the quiet after the morning rush.

School was not where I wanted to be, and what I wanted was more important than what other people thought was good for me. I was cynical, even at fourteen, to those with life experiences, what could they possibly tell me that I didn’t already know about the world? Trying was pointless, learning was pointless. All I could amount to was a feast for the bugs under a heap of dirt, it made no difference whether I worked hard or not. What was there to be gained from Business Studies, or Geography? I thought. Hiding underneath my turtle shell feeding the mind a defeatist philosophy.

In those days, a fourteen year old could get a pack of fags without ID, and since it could be assumed all the kids were at school, I could pass for sixteen with my hint of hair growing on the chin, saving up a couple of days bus fare to spend my parents money on rebelling. I wandered down sterilised suburban streets and housing estates for aspirational early 90s buyers, gardens all neatly pruned and driveways swept, winding left and right through little alleys that avoided the main road.

The lake was man-made, a nice spot for dogs to foul and grumpy morning walkers to curse. It was intended to join each end of the suburb, offering shortcuts away from the road and towards the local primary school. But in reality it was desolate, a dead space hardly anyone used. A tiny island perched in the middle of it untouched, trees flailing as their roots slipped closer to the still water, its murky brown shade rarely moved and the air only vibrated with an occasional quack echoing rippling across the lake. Duck shit covered the pavement that looped around it, and the grass was always boggy even in summer, as children we’d scrape our feet on the path to get rid of the mud, only to end up with muddy shit. I sat on a bench away from the main path, smoking and passing time. Out of boredom I’d smoked a second cigarette immediately after the first. The rush of chemicals went straight to my head and gave me a whiter complexion than usual. Heaving to spew, just phlegm emerging, a sharp migraine fizzled. I managed to stumble up to a wooded retreat and slumped over a tree, waiting for the sickness to abate.

Others I knew who’d avoided school desperately tried to covet attention, standing at the back gate waiting to be caught. Throwing stones at the water, being childish in shopping centres. I was never like that, I was always aware that I needed to blend in seamlessly, nobody needed to notice, leaving them on autopilot as they navigated the bland shopping centre tiles, leaving them to think about themselves. I liked being invisible, it is much easier when you’ve a white face and a masculine look, but I nonetheless appreciated the serenity of being left to my own thoughts.

But despite the care I’d taken in simmering the alarms over my fugitive status, the adults, with their network of contact details, had played their winning hand. My parents were furious and I was equally agitated by this conspiracy against me. They didn’t understand, the law didn’t understand, and it wasn’t fair. I went to my room and listened to loud, brash punk music, I cried and cried and thought and thought, but it wasn’t my parents I was getting back at.

Rebel

Animal

The party was mostly a blur
I saw smoke out from ears
Christmas cabinet spirits taken
Wasted on ignorance
I spin around the room
Or the room spins around me
Basins capture fallers
Trapped, with faucets dripping
Drowning in melodrama
Young actors perform skits
With farm firearms, aiming
At passing cars. The loud bang
Rings in our ears, energy
Peters out like a fading bulb
Dawn chorus lulls us
To sleep in the barn
With our fellow animals

Animal

Carving

Benches are stoic ever-presents
Tree surgeons come and go
Children’s hoppy drinks, grown
Men watch their dogs piss
Blow a smoke ring skyward
Listen to the distant doppler shift
The whoosh of speeding traffic
These lost evenings, spent drunk
On each other’s company
Giddy laughter, friendship as
Feeble as the daisies heads
Picked off one by one
Keen stencilers carve our names
With keys, a preservation of
The lack of responsibility
To anyone but ourselves

Carving

Underpass

Crystals reflect off the flickering lights
Fat fingers roll over another paper
Another cold, dark winter evening
Nothing doing for teenagers
Except the sickly sweet smoke
Rising from below the road
Underpassé graffiti. “I woz ‘ere”
Small town tagging, not quite
The wit to make it onto talent shows
But these aren’t our words
We shield flames
With our cupped hands
Gather outside a solitary shop
Joke about sticking the place up
Boisterously demonstrate
Lacking amenities to pass time
Adults skulk past, step into their cars
We glimpse at our older selves
Give them a two fingered salute
As a parting gift

Underpass